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Becoming a Healthy Artist

Becoming a healthy artist isn’t something most artists ever talked about in their universities, their studios, or their galleries. From professors to patrons, the focus has been on your creativity, and your innovation. Yet, if you are going to have a productive and long career, then becoming a healthy artist is critically important.

As creatives you understand the power of beauty, metaphor and story. Stories and ideas have resonated with you and you followed your passion. You’re working in the world of art, media and entertainment. You tell great stories and provoke people to think deeply about life. That is great. Don’t stop. But amidst the influence you have upon your audience and colleagues, I want to ask you something your friends may never ask. How is your heart?

What stories do you tell yourself?

What stories and metaphors are you telling yourself? Deep down in your heart of hearts where you fight off depression, discouragement and maybe even suicidal thoughts – what do you offer to your own soul? What are the narratives that drive your life?

One of the most profound questions posed to me in seminary, for which I and nearly all my colleagues had no answer, was this: “How do you preach the gospel to your own heart”?

For too long we, (the broader church) focused on the gospel as something we offer to the world to show them new life in Christ. Tragically, we lost sight of its purpose for our soul each day. We tell others that if they come to Jesus, there is peace and forgiveness. But what happens when you have been a Christian for years and you don’t have peace, and struggle with forgiveness, bitterness, and loneliness?

Do we need to preach to our own heart?

Martin Luther, the impressively bold reformer, willing to die for his faith, still needed encouragement. He said that he needed to preach the gospel to his heart every day because he forgot it every morning. The man who translated the entire bible by hand and defended his beliefs before the seats of power in Europe under the threat of excommunication and death, needed to preach grace, peace and hope to his own heart. If Luther needed to preach to his heart, how can you and I expect anything different?

You and I need to hear the gospel every day. The gospel is not merely something we present to a non-believer to help them come to Christ, it is something a mature believer preaches to their own heart every day. This is essential to becoming a healthy artist.

Neglecting our own hearts

It is easy to become so enamored with the ideas we have and the possibility of influencing others (for good we hope) that we neglect our own heart. Like the cobbler’s children who have no shoes, we fail to use our talents to take care of our own heart, and our own family. King David gives us a great example of speaking life into his heart and soul amidst his frustrations when he declares, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul!” The great Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the value of this text in our pursuit of spiritual health and maturity:

“This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”

It is easy to listen to the voices of discouragement. Passivity will always allow our fears, and the voices of critics to seep in. It takes effort to preach to your own heart. Your soul will shrivel and shrink without great metaphors and parables that bring you hope as you offer them to your own heart. Consider the story of Jesus calming the seas. Without the context of raging seas, we never imagine someone else has already experienced the storms of our life. Without a savior who calmed the seas for the disciples, we will doubt Christ’s ability to calm our fears, our cities, and our country.

God calls you to be healthy

God never called you to be an isolated artist, bearing down under all that weight, carrying a load without the help of God and friends. He did not simply offer you a vision for your career and then sit back to make you figure it out on your own. God cares about you becoming a healthy artist. He is there with you and wants you to keep finding hope and encouragement in Him. God continues to speak to you through Scripture, through pastors, small group leaders, family and friends.

But are you listening? Are you taking time to preach to your own heart? As the Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “You (God) give me songs of deliverance. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Corrie was a spiritual giant who knew how to preach to her own heart in the most traumatic times of the last century.

How to preach to your own heart

So how do you preach to your own heart? Take time to be honest. Be honest with your own thoughts, fears, and concerns. Acknowledge how each day you try to find meaning in your work, your influence, your addictions and your relationships. In the quiet of your own room confess your doubts and fears to Christ. Then ask Christ to wash over your soul with the mercies that are new every morning. Thank God for his never-ending grace. Praise Him for his love that endures forever. And then, boldly tell your soul that your sins are forgiven. God loves you and he is for you. Receive the love of God in your heart, His forgiveness of your sins, and His promise to bless and protect you.

Beauty is a gift from God

Your heart can also be encouraged by appreciating meaningful beauty – whether it is getting away to experience the beauty of creation, visiting an art gallery that quiets your soul, or listening to music that ministers to your heart. God has given us beauty to remind us that we are more than our work, and our needs.

His beauty is meant to be a gift, which awakens your senses and reminds you that the source of all beauty and inspiration is God himself. So, take time to enjoy the beauty God has created. Or enjoy the beauty created by others made in the Imago Dei (His Image). Even screensavers created for AppleTV and FireTV demonstrate what the Bible has taught thousands of years ago – “The heavens declare His Glory”. So let the traces of His glory remind your soul of the grandeur of God.

Beyond the blessings of beauty, we need the truths of Scripture to offer substantial hope. If you are serious about becoming a healthy artist,  caring for your soul, you need to know God’s Word. This means taking time to read, memorizing verses that will encourage you, and getting plugged into a healthy church. You were never meant to do this alone, without the life-giving words in the Bible or the friendships of other believers. The reformers called these the ‘means of grace’ because they are ways in which God extends his grace into your everyday life. So take advantage of the resources God has designed for you. Take advantage of the resources we offer through the Arts & Entertainment Institute and our website.

Create boldly out of the love God has for you

Then, when you have taken time to preach to your own heart, and your soul is refreshed, rise up and create the art God gifted you to create. Let the stories of Scripture and the songs of deliverance light the path for your soul. Become the inspiration for the art you offer to the world. Then you can be unhindered by the sin that easily entangles, the shame the wears down your soul, and the fears of the critics and cynics. This is the blessing that comes from becoming a healthy artist.

Don’t back down— Don’t hesitate— Don’t waver.

Lift up your eyes to heaven. Rejoice. Arise and create with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Walk in the love and peace Christ died to give you. Be the artist, agent, producer, dancer, creative— God called you to be.

Copyright © 2019 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.